Update: Results of The Free Software Experiment

Back in October of 2006, I wrote about my attempt to use only free software on my newly acquired notebook computer. At the time, I gave out these grades:

OpenOffice: B- [Works well but not completely compatible with MS Word, I have pretty much stopped using it]

Firefox: A [Seemed to work very reliably ]

Thunderbird: A [Works great ]

Since then, I have become very disillusioned with Firefox. First, my bookmarks disappeared without warning. OK, this might be caused by my harddrive. Then the download manager (which I thought worked really sweetly) started acting up such that it didn’t tell me when the download was complete. Then there was the funky blank menu bar across the top…probably due to some option I had set or a software plug-in. But I tried for days to get it to go away and it never did. I even did a fresh install of Firefox to get things back to normal…didn’t work. The final straw was when I kept running into web pages that didn’t display properly on Firefox. OK, you are going to say that this is the webmaster’s problem in that they didn’t check compatiblity with all major web browsers.

Well, I give up. I switched back to (ack) Internet Explorer and everything works much better. My life just got simpler, which is the ultimate test. (I am starting to sound like a Mac user :-)

I am still using Thunderbird as it gets the job done. OK, its spam filter could be better but I doubt that Outlook Express is any better.

My conclusion: the standard Microsoft stuff works, and, well, it is the standard on the PC, whether we like it or not.

73, Bob K0NR

QRP Power Levels Redefined

After decades of QRP power levels being defined by a simple “RF output” standard, the QRP Amateur Radio Club International adopted a new QRP power level standard. This new standard takes into account the total power consumed in the ham shack at the time of the QRP contact. This is thought to provide a “purer” approach to the ethics of low power operating.

It is not clear if other QRP organizations or the ARRL will adopt this new method. I expect this approach to be hotly debated on QRZ.com and eham.net…unless they check the date on the QRPARCI announcement.

73, Bob K0NR

Announcing the 2010 (56th Annual) Poisson d’Avril Contest

56th Annual Poisson d’Avril Contest
0000 – 2359Z April 1, 2010

I. DESCRIPTION AND OBJECTIVE:

Since K1DG has won this contest every year since its inception, and is expected to win for at least the next three years, we are announcing the 2010 rules in 2007 to give everyone a chance to install the necessary hardware and software to compete.

II. BANDS/MODES:

All bands, all modes. If we get new bands or modes between now and 2010, they will count. There will be two types of competition in the 2010 event: Traditional and Modern. Detailed descriptions are included below. Please note that the Modern category does not require the actual transmission of a radio signal (it is permitted, but optional).

See complete rules at http://www.freewebs.com/poissondavril/2010rules.htm

73, Bob K0NR

Colorado QSO Party Announced

The Pikes Peak Radio Amateur Association has announced the date and rules for the Colorado QSO Party. The contest runs from 1200 UTC 15 July, 2007 until 0400 UTC 16 July 2007. For Colorado, this is 6AM to 10PM MDT on Sunday July 15th.

This should be a fun event on the ham bands from 160 Meters to 10 Meters (excluding WARC bands) and the VHF bands of 6 Meters, 2 Meters, and 70 cm. Operating categories include Single Operator, Multioperator, Mobile and Schools. The contest exchange is Signal Report and County (3-letter abbreviation). Stations outside of Colorado send Signal Report and State, Province or DXCC prefix.
Complete rules are available here.
73, Bob K0NR

ARRL: Always Getting Bashed

Jeff, KE9V, had a great post on his blog “Gutless ARRL Bashers“. Jeff basically says it is easy to criticize a large organization such as the ARRL but it takes real work to contribute and make it better. I agree completely.

I see the ARRL in the same way I see the US government….I don’t like everything it does but it is the only one we have, so we better try to make it work.

I don’t see any other amateur radio organization that has a credible voice with the FCC.

73, Bob K0NR

Donate for Microwave Antennas for ISS

The ARISS-Europe team is working to establish L-band and S-band antennas on the Columbus module, which will be added to the International Space Station.

From the ARISS-Europe web site:

With the Columbus module being located at some considerable distance from the other two ARISS stations, this will permit parallel operations on the new bands at the same time as the existing operations. The availability of these new frequencies will enable us to establish wideband and video operations for the first time. This facility will provide ATV facilities for School contacts and, additionally, continuous transponder operation.

The only problem is that ARISS-Europe still needs additional funds to pay for the antennas. They are asking for donations from radio amateurs worldwide. See http://www.ariss-eu.org/columbus.htm Time is running out, so if you can donate to this cause, do it now.

73, Bob K0NR

Whatever Happened To The Electronics Hobbyist?

In Electronic Design magazine, Louis Frenzel wrote an article, “Whatever Happened to the Electronics Hobbyist?”

Electronics used to be one of the greatest hobbies ever. There were literally hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of people who used to play around with electronics as an avocation or part-time interest and activity. There were at least a dozen magazines supporting this group and plenty of parts and kits suppliers to keep them happy. Kids learned electricity and electronics in school. As a result, when they ended up getting the bug, they ended up not only adopting electronics as a hobby, but also made it into a career. You don’t see too much of that going on anymore. So what the devil happened to the electronic hobbyist?

Louis goes on to say that electronics tinkering at the component level has largely disappeared but that the “Systems Hobbyist” is alive and well. This is a good article, with insight into the electronics hobby, including ham radio. Worth reading…click here.

73, Bob K0NR

FCC Fines CB Shop for Selling "10 Meter Ham Rigs"

From the ARRL web site:

FCC fines shop selling non-certified CB transceivers as ham gear (Mar 6, 2007) — In a Forfeiture Order released March 2, the FCC has affirmed a $7000 fine it levied on Ben Metzger of Titusville, Florida, doing business as 1 Stop Communications / 1 Stop CB Shop, for marketing non-certified Citizens Band transceivers.

The 1 Stop CB Shop is just one of many companies selling radios on the internet that are 10-Meter ham transceivers that just happen to be set up for 40-channels of operation. A quick snip of a wire or component and these rigs just happen to land right on the Citizen Band channels. Oh, did I mention that these radios run a lot more output power than the 4W that is legal on CB?

Well, the FCC apparently takes a dim view of this. The FCC’s Forfeiture Order makes for interesting reading. It seems than a FCC agents bought a Connex CX 3300HP amateur transceiver that Mr. Metzger modified for them (in less than 15 minutes) to operate on CB frequencies. This sort of messed up his argument that he was just selling a ham transceiver, which does not require FCC certification.

It is good to see the FCC go after these guys. On the other hand, it seems that the manufacturers (Cobra, Connex, Galaxy, etc.) are just as blameworthy. Take a look at any of these 10-meter mobile radios on the The 1 Stop CB Shop web site. They are clearly not intended for the ham market. How do I know? The roger beep and echo control are the main tipoffs!!!!

73, Bob K0NR

2006 ARRL September VHF Contest Results

The ARRL has published the results for the 2006 September VHF QSO Party. I didn’t really pay any attention because I didn’t remember working the contest. However, it turns out that I once again dominated the QRP category in the Rocky Mountain region. Well, “dominated” means that I was the highest score (65) of two entries.

I went back and checked my log book….it seems that I must have pulled out the FT-817 and went out on the back deck and worked a few stations.

Single Operator Portable Scores for Colorado:
Call Score QSOs Mult
K0NR 65 11 5
K0JJW 6 2 2

K0JJW is my wife, who also made a couple of contacts that weekend. Thanks, hon, for the competition :-)

The September contest generally has very light activity in my area, so looking forward to the June contest and some good 50 MHz conditions.

73, Bob K0NR